Friday, February 18, 2011

Concurrent CFD

An article by Dr. Keith Hanna of Mentor Graphics Corp. appearing in Defense Tech Briefs and repeated in other publications describes a method of performing concurrent Computation Fluid Dynamic (CFD) in conventional MCAD tools.

Last year I wrote a post on how the design process needs to be turned upside down.  In it, I made some recommendations on how the integration of analysis tools into MCAD packages may not be the right way to move forward.  Although Dr. Hanna makes a good argument for streamlining the analysis process and saving countless hours of development time, in my opinion it fails to solve the problem and in fact, may make it worse.
"Concurrent CFD automates tedious/intimidating steps such as configuring  solid representations of hollow spaces, designing meshes, and more." 
That's great, for an analyst.  But what this is in fact doing to taking the analyst out of the loop.  Now that the part of the solution that requires expertise has been dumbed down simplified to the point where anyone can set up a model for analysis, the unqualified designer is going to do it.  Why? Because it is a quicker and cheaper process than involving the analyst.  This is simply wrong!  What I foresee happening is that the experienced structural engineer who is very good at designing hardware and designing for manufacturability will now feel compelled to also perform fluid analysis.  As engineers, we have a duty to only perform within our area of expertise, and taking two fluid dynamics classes in college does not exactly qualify us as experts.  Yet, the tools are so easy to use and are built right into the software I'm proficient at, why not give it a try?  What could be the harm?

If you are a fluids expert and happen to also be proficient at MCAD, integrated tools like these are a godsend.  They save time and money on development programs.  They turn tedious manual chores into automated solutions while adding a level of accuracy that may be missed during manual setup.  I can see how it is easy to be enticed by these benefits of integrated solutions.  But it is the job of the engineer to look past the shiny marketing and THINK about the details.  What is it you are really buying and is it the right tool for the job?  Think about it, and while you're at it, check out Mentor Graphics.  It may just be the tool you have been looking for.
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